Hair-Care Tips

Want to Wash Your Hair Less? Scalp Serums Are the Hot-Ticket Item to Know Now

Zoe Weiner

Zoe WeinerMarch 20, 2019

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Photo: Getty Images/ filadendron

2019 is finally the year that scalps are starting to get the love they deserve.

For as long as any of us can remember, “hair care” has centered around actual, well, hair. Lately, however, we’ve learned that good hair starts at the root, and that means taking proper care of your scalp. “Hair care is scalp care, and scalp care is health care. When your scalp is off, your body’s off,” says Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa hairstylist and trichologist Bridgette Hill. “We are now exploring what true hair care really entails. It has very little to do with the fibers of the hair, and for the most part, everything to do with the scalp.”

After all, your scalp is actually skin, which means that it needs to be cared for in the same way you’d care for your face and body skin. Meaning: You wash it, scrub it, mask it, and now, slather it in a scalp serum. “Scalp serums promote healthy hair and hair growth,” says hairstylist Kim Navarro of Los Angeles’ 901 Salon. “When hair is washed too frequently, you’re not allowing the natural hair oils to replenish. If you’re on the the other end of the spectrum, not washing often enough and using dry shampoo can lead to dry scalp and flakes.” Just as different skin types require different serums to address their varying needs, the same principle also applies to your scalp.

First things first: identify what kind of scalp you’ve got

In order to pick the right treatment for your scalp, it’s important to first ask what’s going on up there. Are you oily? Dry and flaky? Is your hair thinning? “For the most part you’re going to be dealing with scalps that are over producing sebum and are oily, under producing sebum and are dry, or you have a combination of the two, and you’re experiencing some type of hair thinning or hair loss,” says Hill.

An oily scalp happens in patches, and will make you constantly feel like your hair’s dirty. As Hill explains it, an oily scalp is not the same thing as a sweaty or dirty scalp, which can be confusing. “You’re not going to feel a build up per se. When it’s like a wetness or a waxy build that means that you have an imbalance in the sebaceous gland, it’s very rarely the entire head,” she explains.

If you have a dry scalp, it will extend to multiple areas on top of your head. “Dry scalp it tends to be more than one specific area,” says Hill, who notes that you should look out for flakes all over if you think you may be dealing with this issue.

Then, select a serum for your scalp issue

Once you’ve determined the problem you’re trying to solve, you need to find the right ingredients to get the job done. “Both dry and oily hair types should look for ingredients that lift dirt and grease from the scalp. This allows the scalp to breath better and gives the serum a good working surface,” says Marilisa Sears, Artistic Director for MAV Beauty Brands. “For an oily scalp look for a serum that helps to clarify oily buildup with ingredients like apple cider vinegar. A dry scalp will benefit from something that gently removes excess buildup but also needs more hydration with ingredients like tea tree oil.”

If you want to get the most bang for your buck when using a serum, start out with a scrub. “You want to gently remove any and all buildup so that your scalp and follicles receive the best possible results of a serum,” explains Sears. One rule the pros live by: If you wash your hair daily, use a serum every other wash. If you’re on a weekly shampoo schedule, serum up every time you lather.

Unlike products that you can spritz on your strands to make them instantly glossy and gorgeous, scalp serums take some time to work their magic. “These are not instant gratification products—these are commitments,” says Hill. “It takes time because you have to give it full cycle of skin turnover and a full cycle of cellular turnover.” So there you have lather, rinse, slather on a serum, repeat.

Seriously—scalp care really is the new skincare. And here are 10 supplements you can take to get fuller, thicker hair from the inside out. 

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